Israelis Who Support BDS
Those who believe no Israeli could possibly support the Boycott-Divestment-and Sanctions (BDS) movement, have not met Avraham Burg, a former Speaker of the Knesset and head of the Jewish Agency who was once considered a candidate for Prime Minister of Israel. Mr. Burg has made clear that he supports a world-wide boycott of Israeli goods and products manufactured across the so-called Green Line, the name given to the demarcation established in the 1949 Armistice Agreements between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria after the Jewish State’s 1948 War of Independence.
Although Mr. Burg insists his position does not call for a total boycott of Israel, it is clear that this scion of a once-proud Zionist family (his late father, Yosef Burg, served in the Israeli cabinet for almost four decades) has thrown his lot in with those who no longer accept the idea of a Jewish State.
Now a member of the Israeli communist party, Hadash, Mr. Burg says “Zionism has been successfully completed,” and he no longer defines himself as a Zionist.
“Zionism was the scaffolding that facilitated the transition from the Diaspora to sovereignty. This scaffolding is superfluous now,” he told Yediot Ahronot, the Jewish state’s most widely circulated newspaper, last year.
Ending the Law of Return
He insists Israel would be better off getting rid of its own Law of Return, which allows all Jews throughout the world to come to Israel and claim citizenship, and concentrate more on implementing the so-called Palestinian Right of Return, a Palestinian demand that all Arabs who fled Israel in 1948 and 1967—and their descendants—be allowed to flood back into Israel proper, thus demographically destroying the Jewish state.
For Mr. Burg, if Israel is to exist at all, it should be only in an open-bordered confederation with the future State of Palestine.
“Israel, regardless of external circumstances, is not a democracy, and all that remains is a hollow citizenship,” he told Yediot Ahronot, admitting that “the most painful issue” facing all Israelis, including those on the left “is the Zionist issue.”
“The [Jewish] Law of Return was a fast-track way of granting citizenship to Jews who were persecuted in various countries. This need no longer exists,” he said.
Keeping the Green Line
In general, he has no qualms about supporting BDS, which he calls “a bold and innovative attempt to achieve real diplomatic gains.” He hopes BDS will result in the dissolution of the “occupation,” the demolition of the security fence between Jewish and Palestinian-Arab areas, acknowledgement of the equal rights of Israel’s Palestinian-Arab citizens, and a resolution to the problem of Palestinian-Arab refugees.
Above all, he wants to keep the Green Line intact as a clear separation between the modern state of Israel and its Biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria, to which he believes the Jewish state has no claims.
His approval of BDS stems from his belief that it is a form of nonviolent resistance, which, he says, of all the available options, is “the most kosher” and a “non-harsh alternative.”
The prominence of far-left Israelis in the BDS movement against the State of Israel is no accident. According to Omar Barghouti, a “human rights activist” and founding committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, Arab advocates of BDS actively recruit “conscientious” Israeli support “for the sake of justice and genuine peace.”
Israelis who have been coopted into this pernicious movement, whether naïvely or, more often, by design, seek to provide legitimacy and justification to those seeking to harm the Jewish state.
Anthony Julius, a prominent British solicitor advocate, academic, and Jewish leader, explains that these anti-Zionist Jews profess “to speak as the moral conscience of the Jewish people.”
In short, he says, by assuming the role of “scourges of the Jewish state,” the anti-Zionist Jew becomes a “moralizer,” an individual who publicly “prides himself on the ability to discern the good and the evil.”
“The moralizer makes judgments on others, and profits by so doing; he puts himself on the right side of the fence. Moralizing provides the moralizer with recognition of his own existence and confirmation of his own value. A moralizer has a good conscience and is satisfied by his own self-righteousness,” says Mr. Julius.
Naiveté or Malice?
It is a definition that fits Mr. Burg, who, in his writings and public speeches, regularly accuses Israelis of being so traumatized by the Holocaust, of feeling so rejected by the world, that they resort to using force to resolve their differences with the Arab world.
Wouldn’t it be better, asks Mr. Burg, if Israel simply “renewed” its “ability to trust the world?”
This malice posing as naiveté exasperates most Israelis and their supporters. In 2003, when Hamas began a campaign of suicide bombings, Mr. Burg wrote in Yediot Ahronot that “Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism.”
Legitimizing Israel’s Delegitimization
Israeli columnist Sarah Honig noted that, in the past, such ranting, which not only slandered Israel’s highly moral preoccupation with safeguarding Palestinian children’s safety, but also equated buses and synagogues with “centers of escapism,” would have resulted in Mr. Burg’s being “disowned as at least a lunatic.”
“The grave danger is that today he gives voice and lends insidious quasi-respectability to what was heretofore unutterable. By tomorrow, the uncontrollable infestation he spreads might confer outright legitimacy on Israel’s delegitimization,” she said prophetically.
She noted that, should Israel foolishly agree to alter its borders, Mr. Burg would not “stick around to risk the ensuing slaughter.”
Calling him “the new Wandering Jew,” Ms. Honig said he would “pack his sinister seeds and propagate his wicked wandering weed from afar.”
It is not a farfetched vision. In 2007, Mr. Burg applied for and received French citizenship and went on to advise all Israelis to acquire foreign passports. In April 2015, he called for Jews to remain in Europe where they should “fight for the future of the West,” rather than make Aliyah to Israel.
In an article in the New York Times entitled “Israel’s Fading Democracy,” Mr. Burg expressed the hope that, one day, the Jewish state would emulate Northern Ireland or South Africa, where, he noted, citizens have ceased killing each other.
The comparison clearly demonstrates his lack of understanding that the conflicts in those countries were totally different from the one facing Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. But his confusion in no way minimizes the fact that his status, pedigree, and far-left positions render Mr. Burg a formidable opponent of the Jewish state.
Fortunately, those who recognize the danger posed by moralizers such as Mr. Burg have not been complacent. To keep track of them, particularly in Israeli institutions of higher learning, the Israeli Academic Monitor (IAM) was established. Modeled after the American Campus Watch, IAM is a grassroots organization devoted to exposing those Israeli academics who disparage and damage their own universities and promote actions that harm the Jewish state.
Supporters of IAM contend that too many Israeli academic institutions have been misused as venues for radical anti-Israel and even antisemitic propagandizing. The perpetrators, according to IAM, are often “tenured radicals with embarrassing academic records and dubious research credentials.”
IAM officials are counting on the Zionist impulses of the vast majority of donors to Israeli colleges and universities to curb the anti-Israel activities of the tenured radicals on campus. IAM believes that once donors are shown clear proof of anti-Israel activities taking place in the classrooms they are funding, it will become increasingly difficult for the presidents of Israeli institutions of higher learning—to say nothing of the fundraisers—to ignore the moralizers.
Alex Grobman, a Hebrew University-trained historian, has written three new books on Israel: BDS: The Movement to Destroy Israel; Erosion: Undermining Israel through Lies and Deception; and Cultivating Canaan: Who Owns the Holy Land?